Bondi Resort Blog

Come on into our Blog for a look at the wonderful world we've got to share! With over 240 hectares (600 acres) of wilderness woodlands surrounding the resort, just ten minutes from Algonquin Park, we feature over 400 metres (1200’) of waterfront and beach; boat rentals; summer hiking trails winding through fields and woods; 20 km. of groomed cross country ski trails and snowshoeing in winter; access to nearby snowmobile trails for sledders, and a toboggan hill for the young at heart.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dinner's Ready, without lifting a finger!

Christmas season is about getting together. We are blessed to have guests that chose Bondi to be the location for their family reunions this time of year.

Sometimes those reunions are pretty large -- we've got a group here right now that needs the big Lodge, and two three-bedroom cottages to accommodate all of them. When your groups get big, sometimes it's nice to not be the one doing the cooking.

One of the lovely options is to have a dinner (or two) catered locally. There are a number of great caterers that can accommodate any pocketbook and any set of tastebuds, and they will deliver a delicious hot meal right here, to your cottage.

Farmer's Daughter, from Huntsville, provided a meal for our group, to rave reviews. There was a lovely variety, it arrived hot (if a trifle late, but that just added to appetites!), it was a smash hit with both the older and the younger set at the table.

Complete meals can also be ordered and picked up from our local caterers, so if you're thinking of a get-away, and would like a 'catered meal' without the hassle of getting the kids dressed and heading out to a restaurant, but rather served right in your unit, you might consider this option.

Just another way to stay totally relaxed while here!

Other Hills, Not Far Away

Some of our guests headed off property yesterday, to spend the afternoon at the Rock Ridge Tubing Park in Huntsville. It's close by, it's got six tubing runs, and a place to get hot chocolate in between spinning and sliding out of control most of the way down!

Today, they have gone to Hidden Valley Highlands, for some downhill skiing (as Mike keeps pointing out, what other kind of skiing is there? Uphill??? Across hill? We take the point. "Alpine" skiing, then) This is a wonderful place, about ten minutes away from Bondi, with a great ski school and gentle slopes for beginners, quad lifts and challenging runs for experienced skiers.

They benefited from the G8 that was here last June. The chalet was the Security Headquarters, well secured behind not one, but two sets of fences.
This was your tax dollars in action... That experience has permitted the Club to spend some money on the lifts, the runs, the whole dang thing making a good thing even better.
There never seems to be a shortage of things to do up here, and we're really fortunate that we've got such great attractions so close to Bondi! They are a wonderful complement to the attractions right here on our own property, just outside the door!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wearable Art

While the boys were outside skiing, skating and sliding, the girls were gathered in one of the cottages to view the lovely bead jewellery created by Larissa and her friend Galina.

We're always impressed by the amount of talent our guests have! We have several of Larissa's silk paintings in one of the cottages.

During the summer months, we host art shows by our guests, including Jean Rosati, who also shows her work at the Dwight Library. We really enjoy having artwork on display that has been created by our friends and guests. All the cottages have unique pieces on display.

While we can't display jewellery in the cottages, there were certainly no shortage of necks, wrists and ears on tap today to model the pieces, and cheque books were seen in the land.

These are unique, one of a kind, hand-crafted and extraordinarily lovely pieces or wearable art. It was a joy to see them! And, it will be a continuing joy for those who wear them.

There is something really special about knowing the artist, whether its jewellery or paintings or books. We are very privileged to have so many talented people visit us.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


It's busy this week! We had folks here playing Snowshoe Frisbee Golf on Boxing Day. Skaters on the rink ever since it's been open. Skiers on our trails the week leading up to Christmas. Toboggans of all descriptions.
And today, skiers in all directions, including John and Nicholas, heading back to the cottage later in the afternoon. Our ski trails start right from the door of the cottages, and there are trails for every level of skill, and ambition.
And, perhaps the best news of all, because the toboggan hill, skating rink, and ski/snowshoe trails are all right here, right at the door, it's easy to decide just how long you want to spend out there. If someone wants to come back for a rest, it's close and easy. And just as close, just as easy, for those who want to go 'just a little longer.'


We had skaters on the rink almost as soon as Brian and David finished it's last icing this week.
Now, with our guests here for the New Years' week, it's seeing plenty of action. All ages were out on the ice this afternoon, and that's just great to see.
Dave S. was caught on film taking a short break, perhaps surveying the action before he jumped back into the game.
Watching the fun that is being enjoyed by three generations out there, it makes the work of icing the rink so very worthwhile!

Slip Sliding Away

It's winter. Give the kids a hill -- pretty much any hill -- and they're good to go!

Adam showed how it should be done... (and I confess, the dang thing looked rather lethal! Adam made it look easy, but I don't think that's the fact of the matter.)

Then Lisa got into the act. To the sound of much cheering from the rest of the gang.

Perhaps it wasn't quite at 'light speed,' but she emerged at the end triumphant.

And that's always good.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Wall-Eye Fish Consortium

Christmas Day is a day for family traditions. Some old, some new... some returning from Christmases past.

This year, it was a new one. The construction of the Wall-Eye Fish Consortium Mark I Fish Hut, a wholly owned subsidiary of the B(ondi)M(aintenance)D(ept.)

Last summer David and Mike embarked on fishing as a pastime. We use the verb advisedly. Fishing. Not so much Catching. The adventure is in the pursuit.

Even so, they took the bait. They are now FISHERMEN. With some help from his Dad, David designed and together they have constructed a fish-hut, to replace the ancient one that finally crumpled beyond all help several years ago.

Yesterday, between the presents and the turkey dinner, and along with icing the rink again, the lads took hammers in hand. There are some design features still in the engineering stages -- like, how to fasten the old downhill skiis found at the dump to the bottom to act as sled-runners. The little pot-bellied stove needs to be installed. And the windows.
Still, it is coming together nicely.

This morning, the BMD informed me that they are unwrapping Windows 2011, and once they get the system unzipped, they plan to install the panes in the fish-hut. Whereupon the whole system should be almost ready to be booted out onto the bay.
We'll keep you posted!

Life's Better when you Share

The "girls" prefer summer to winter... because in summer there is grass, and bugs, and interesting places to go scratch about and explore.

Come winter, the chickens tend to retreat into the stable, which is warmer on their scrawny feet.

They were delighted today with the sun streaming into the barn -- a group of the ladies clustered in the doorway of the stall to sunbathe

While back in their heated coop, these chickens decided it was more sociable to just share the nest box, rather than each have their own.

Despite the short days, they are laying well. And of course, now the days get longer!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Immortal means Remembered

Dec. 24th was my Dad's birthday. He arrived in 1918, in a blizzard. Dr. Hart drove his horse and buggy out from Huntsville, summoned by the crank party line telephone. The doc was cold and cranky when he arrived. Grandma got up out of bed to make him a hot drink and a dinner before she got back into bed and delivered her fourth child, my dad.

He was named Paul Pax. Pax, for the peace treaty signed that November, ending the Great War. The war to end all wars. It was a hopeful time, and a hopeful name.

Today, he would be 92. It is incredible to me that he has been gone for 21 years now. How much has changed since he was born. We seem to be galloping recklessly into the future, these last few generations.

Paul's father saw the introduction of the first airplane. Paul himself went on to get his pilot's license, his Piper Cub float plane one of his great joys. I still think of him every time I see one. Brian still flies Paul's plane... and David is planning to pursue his license too. Paul would have been delighted to share that passion.

Paul watched planes give way to rockets. Radio give way to television. On which he saw men walk on the Moon. At Cape Canaveral, long before it became Cape Kennedy, he bought us all tickets for the first commercial space flight to the moon. If we could just find them, and if the service gets offered soon, we could still cash them in...

Horses gave way to cars, then bigger cars. He worked the land and the forest with horses, then with tractors, bulldozers... Roads got plowed. Don't laugh... back in 1933, its recorded in our old diaries that there was a vicious blizzard just after Christmas. The township snowplow finally got to Fox Point road on January 21st, passing Bondi at 8.30 a.m. It came back from Fox Point at 4.30. Now if the roads aren't cleared immediately, there's a howling heard that has nothing to do with wolves. Same with hydro. Paul saw it arrive, again in the 1930's here... where all of a sudden life got easier. Sometimes the service was interrupted, but rarely. Now, power out is a way of life it seems, with so many more lines.

Entertainment went from sing-a-longs and community gatherings to radio, television, movie theatres... now to DVD's and the internet. We spend more time on-line, on facebook, less time face-to-face.

Paul wrote letters every evening, and watched for the mail every day. I think he'd have exulted in email, as a way to stay in touch with the friends he collected as easily as he collected stamps, coins. It's a changed world.

His first marriage failed -- the romance of marrying a farmer from Muskoka didn't survive the reality of the first winter for his young debutante wife from Philadelphia -- and his first son was a stranger. Paul kept all the letters and documents showing his struggle to find that child, to have some form of access, but times have changed their, too... back then, crossing a border, getting custody away from the mother... not so easy. One of the greatest gifts he received was when some 40 years on, that son found Paul, and they had the opportunity to catch up and get to know each other. That circle completed.

His second marriage, to Rosemary, 'took', and they were deeply in love to the day he passed away.

That war to end all wars didn't. The information highway takes a lot of detours. In the communication age, we often don't.

But on Paul's birthday, on the eve of the day we have chosen to celebrate the arrival of the Light of the World, the Christ child who came to bring peace and understanding, it's good to stop and recall how far and how fast we have come in such a short time. Because in that headlong rush to plug in to ipods and bluetooth and text messaging, sometimes we leave behind those things that are real and important and beautiful.

Sort of like in the Christmas rush buying 'stuff' to put under the artificial tree for tomorrow, we can lose sight of the real meaning of the season. It's not about the presents, it's about the presence.

And for me, on this day, it's about the absence. A day to celebrate the memories of my dad, whose middle name meant Peace, who loved and cared for this piece of the earth and those that live on it, and who's presence is in everything I know...

Rink Ready

The deer have been pitter pattering their way across the ice to the far point, so we thought it was about time to go out and chop some holes to check the ice depth. There is a simple poem to help with remembering how much good clear ice (not river ice... that's never safe) you need before you venture onto it:

One inch, stay off
Two inches, one may
Three inches, small groups
Four inches, okay...

Now, that said, one, or two, or a small group, should never venture onto ice that they are not sure has been checked. Rivers, currents, local conditions can all conspire, and speaking as one who has been immersed in ice water (luckily, ice water that was only about 4' deep) it is not at all to be recommended.

Our bay is shallow, and there are no major currents running through it -- although there are lots of springs along the shoreline that bring animals to them to drink. So it's a good place for a skating rink at Christmas. We've been working on the rink for a few days. I didn't do the best scouting job, I'm told -- a little farther away, we found ice that was smoother -- but I did locate it close to a power source. That's important -- because not only did Brian hang up a powerful spotlight for evening skaters, but because we need to be able to get a pump to the rink to enable us to water it and smooth the surface.

Brian has been hard at work - with a home-engineered 'smoothing device'. But it takes two people, one moving the hose along with him. There's over five inches of ice out there by the way, so the rink is good to go.

Or it will be in another day or so, when our resident engineer is content with the smoothness of the surface. That will be just in time for our arriving guests, here for the Christmas week.

And it will complete our outdoor sports centre network -- our current guests have been enjoying skiing, snowshoeing and testing out the toboggan hill with the most beautiful sled they got for Christmas!
With nearby Hidden Valley Highlands open for business with all ski runs in action, and the Rock Ridge Tubing Park opening on Dec. 26th, there's just no place better to enjoy the great outdoors.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Connections -- our Yearly Christmas Letter

some of you will have received this by mail, or by email, and some of you will have heard it all over the last year in person, but here it is, a recap of our year at Bondi... We do enjoy touching base with our extended "family of friends" and often the Christmas season letters is the only update we get, so keep 'em coming, and we hope you enjoy ours! Best of the season to all of you. May your Christmas be merry, and bright... ours is most certainly White!

Christmas, 2010

To all our friends,

Seventeen inches of snow Nov. 26th heralded winter’s arrival. Christmas lights are already strung, the gardens bedded down, ski trails cleared, but no matter how ready we think we are, it takes that first huge snowfall to make it real. Christmas on the doorstep. The time of year we like to stop, reflect, and touch base with all our friends, both near and far.
Being Canadian, we talk about weather. Winter brought us lots of snow. Also many short lived thaw cycles, sparing us the punishing 40 below range. Brian had a new, top-class trail groomer for the ski trails, producing faster grooming, and trails second to none. Improvements to the tubing hill, and Snowshoe Frisbee Golf proved popular. The Lodge was busy all winter, but it was quieter in the cottages. Perhaps it’s the economy, or the timing of the winter storms, but there were generally less people travelling.
That’s a shame, because winter in the city is really just a continuous November. If you want to make friends with winter, you need to come north and get outside. We’re unrivalled in offering a reconnection with the natural world, among the most affordable of vacations, and close to home to boot, through all seasons -- doubly so the summer months! The world economy isn’t looking particularly bright. It’s understandable people are travelling less, but getting away and into a natural setting (especially one with a lake!) is a time proven way to reduce stress, improve friendships, bond families, and needn’t cost a lot. We’re offering Super Specials, for instance: 3 days, 6 people, $600. Family Day is proving to be a very popular getaway weekend, but there are Winter Carnival weekends too!

David is into his final year at Georgian. His work co-op placed him here for the winter – how wonderful having him around, getting very hands-on in all areas of our resort operations, while fitting in snowmobiling and skiing. He greets that first snowfall with fist-pumping enthusiasm.

Nancy volunteered at the Ontario Youth Nordic Winter Games at Arrowhead (the other park, near Huntsville, an often overlooked alternative to Algonquin). In February, the Real Deal took place in Vancouver. Red mittens waving, we joined the rest of the country, cheering our medalists. Brian and Dave sledded to Bigwin to watch Matt Weidinger set the Guinness World Record, 2906 km. in 24 hours on a Yamaha snowmobile circling the lake. They also enjoyed a long snowmobile trek with our guests later in the month. We got in a bit of downhill skiing, stole silent moments on snowshoes, and checked out our ski trails, too.

Spring came early -- ice out on March 31 -- and hot. Mostly skipping spring, we dove right into summer. At Easter, adults were in t-shirts, kids were in the lake. There’s always one last winter gasp. May 11 was cold enough to freeze pipes. After that, we sailed into a summer that broke records for temperatures and clear skies. Refugees from the unpronounceable Iceland volcano stayed with us waiting for their English skies to finally clear.
Brian and David were busy prepping for the installation of a solar panel, involving much ditching, trenching, and pouring of cement before installing The Array – it all sounded (and looked) very Sci-Fi. The upgrades and renovations at the resort never stop, and David discovered there’s plenty to learn!

May 13, David and Mike Bechtel got a driving lesson about how you can be doing everything right and still get run into in an intersection. A routine trip home from Georgian turned into a life lesson that expanded from sudden stops and airbags into car shopping, insurance, police reports and – for Mike – some health issues that surfaced after the wreck and put him into physiotherapy. Luckily, he made a good recovery and was able to be here for the summer. That was good news for us – with David back in class for the summer, Mike’s help was indispensable. This was the first summer Dave hasn’t been here, and his absence was notable! He was home for most of the weekends – fitting Bondi “in” between visits with Megan!

Brian and Carol grabbed a short break in Brechin in late May, before we added Lived through the G8 to our resumes. By late June, the lake was already in the low 80’s – but we were all in hot water as the G8 Summit rolled into Deerhurst. Road closures, massive expanses of fencing and a security presence that looked like it cost every bit of the $1 Billion materialized. Helicopters and surveillance planes were constantly overhead. The boys went biking to see if they could spot tanks – they were directed to go bike elsewhere. World Leaders were greeted with a Force 5 Earthquake on June 22nd. It shook us, and shook David in his Georgian Residence in Barrie even harder. Welcome to Muskoka! Bondi was taken over by Security personnel – total chaos reigned until Carol got them sorted out into our accommodation, but from there on it was all peace and light. Thankfully we got extra help from some of our local friends who pitched in to help us with the housekeeping. Also thankfully, it was a peaceful time, and the local protests were amicable and even hilarious.
On the home front, Carol finally got her kitchen renovation. It began in January, to a recurring theme of trying to get providers to get things right, but once the cupboards were re-ordered and the contractors finally showed up, then returned to correct the mistakes, it began to come together. Brian and David took over much of the work, which ensured that at least that portion was done on time and well crafted. She’s waiting now for the new lights in the dining room... Home renovations are not something that can be hurried, apparently.

The same refrain was heard outdoors, with the installation of new generators as back-up during power outages; and erecting solar collectors. Bondi is greener than ever, with one 10 Kw collector and another array providing hot water. Lest anyone think that process seems simple, let’s just say there’s never time to do it right, but always time to do it over... and the final touches to these installations (we hope the final touches!) got done in September. Let us also point out the Brian the Engineer was proven correct... The big array proved most popular with monarch butterflies too.

We enjoyed having Carol’s grand-daughter Sarah for two weeks in July. She got in lots of riding, and proved to be quite an asset helping out around the resort as well as in the stable. She’s got her mom’s artistic vision, and is quite the young photographer!

The best part of Carol’s summer includes the fruits of her garden labours, enjoying the best produce in the world. This year, she even managed to grow some peanuts (ostensibly for her, but really for her friend Chipmunk) With the hot weather, everything was early this year. Eggs from our chickens are always in demand. So are the chickens – we suffered from foxes this year. Other predators include our deer, still diligently doing their best to eat the gardens. Carol has removed some flower gardens around the cottages where it too frustrating deer-proofing them. She’ll concentrate on the big garden.

For the first time in a great many years, we had vacancies during July and August. We welcomed new friends and faces into our Bondi Family, but there is always room for more. The pattern is for more last-minute bookings, and shorter stays. All we can say, is if you’re considering a getaway, give us a call first! And please mention us to your friends!
Our program of Stars, northern lights, wolf howls and owls kept many of our guests out on the lawns late into the nights, with many requests to “go out again tonight, please.” Dave and Mike took up fishing, or as they call it lure losing. Yes, there are fish in our lake. Yes, they are mostly still in there... Guests heard our local wolf pack singing most nights (well, early mornings). In honour of our Bondi beavers near the river, we also ‘adopted’ Woody, at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre. You might have seen him bobsledding as the official beaver at the Olympics. Really. Look him up on our Blog! (The Blog was ‘highly recommended” by Macleans magazine!) Or drop by MWC in person and say hi! He likes bananas, we’re told.

In mid-July, Nancy had eye surgery for cataracts – who knew? It’s an amazing procedure, she was home by noon, and at the cook-out that night, with better vision than she’s ever had. The procedure is amazing, and she highly recommends it.

Not one cookout was threatened by rain this year. Nor were the marathon swims. David was home for the last swim – out came the bbq barge and waffle chefs. The summer broke records for temperature and sunshine, while Toronto was lamenting rain. It was 30 degrees here in late August, with our usual steady breeze off the lake,. That little bit of altitude we enjoy pays off in providing us with a wonderful micro-climate. We’re higher than Toronto, and north of the storm belt.

September rained. A lot. The colours were lovely, set off against dark skies, and there was lots of sun in between the showers, but October and November set in to be at their finest, with lovely warm days, crisp nights that left us almost believing winter was a long way off. Then, wham, winter happens fast...

In a hilarious twist, Napster, our rotund ginger cat, embarked on a new career as a famous artist. Painting with his tail, he ‘whipped’ up several designs. What started as a lark has blossomed for him – he’s been featured in 3 magazines, several newspapers, had a guest appearance at the Mall, and moved over $3000 worth of cards and prints. All the profits go to charities, and he has a blog where you can order from him on-line, through the Bondi Resort Blog (Our blog was highly recommended by Macleans magazine!). His collectors now include the Minister of Industry; a director of the original IMAX films; and a celebrity artist in London. Achmed continues to be a little terror, with a huge fan club. Now that he’s famous, Napster stands his ground more, and the two are getting on much better. There is a strong rumour that Nancy may be joined soon by a new puppy... stay tuned, and watch the Blog!

Due to the G8, eye surgery and election campaign, Nancy’s time was very constrained. She sent, Abby to a friend who took our now five year old ‘gal’ into competition with, with great success. The other horses continue to be well, but less active than they should be. Pony “Squeegee” acquired a cart, and embarked on a career as a “smart car”, adding drives around the resort to his pony ride mission. While Nancy continues to coach and judge, she is a lot more “choosy” about her clients.

October was a whirl. While Nancy was successfully campaigning for re-election to Lake of Bays Council, the rest of the family were in Florida enjoying some sun and surf. It looks to be an interesting new term at Council, with a new Mayor and mostly new council and huge deficit. Enough said. She’s running away for a short holiday of her own in December.

Come November, Dave and Brian took gun and Hunter courses. It’s possible we are taking this “eat local” thing too far...

Christmas is a time to stop and think about what – and who -- really matters. It’s been a troubled world in many ways, 2010, but we’ve made it through other troubled times. We’re strong together. Every sunset has a sunrise. It’s time for us to realize collectively we need less ‘things’, more time with each other and in the beautiful soul-restoring Nature that surrounds us. Christmas comes around to remind us that no matter how steep the mountain - the Lord is going to climb it with you. We wish you a new year full of good things, things that truly matter, -- as your friendship matters to us. Blessed be.

“Be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead!" (I Peter 1:6)

Best wishes, and blessings, from the Tapley Family at Bondi Village
Brian, Carol, and David, and Nancy

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Goodnight, Moon...

I just got back from vacation, in time to be welcomed home by a total lunar eclipse.

The good news is that skies up here were so clear, the air so quiet, that standing outside was pure (if chilly) magic.

The bad news is that the eclipse reached totality around 3 a.m. At which time most of us have reached a different type of totality, and are not outside. You can track down some videos on the internet, but nothing really comes close to the real thing.

I kept getting up, prodded by an alarm clock that was quite good at reminding me that time was passing. I got to see it at about half, and at full, and then I called it a day. Or more accurately, a night.

What a beautiful thing to see. And what a way to welcome the winter solstice winter, the shortest day, the first day of 'official' winter. The days start to get longer now. Christmas is almost upon us... and Nature has already unwrapped a beautiful gift for all of us!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wardrobe Adjustments Required

There is no such thing as bad weather, really... just the wrong wardrobe. If, for instance, you were stuck on the 401 for 36 hours in the blizzard, had you been wearing cariboo skin parkas, and had along your trusty dog sled team and a good knife for carving out an igloo, it would have been less of an issue. God bless the poor souls who had to sit that one out -- but with any luck the worst of the storms will have worn themselves out before the heavy travelling for Christmas gets underway!

Down here at Sarasota, the issue of the week has been the deep freeze taking out the crops. Strawberries shrouded in ice from the sprinklers, smudge pots going full out, and miles of plastic sheeting have done their best, but it's not looking good. On one of the nature trails today, the bouganvillia were frosted, looking quite forlorn. They, too, need a better wardrobe.

On the beach, the big waves tossed up lots of treasures, including this little octopus. He was most definitely Not amused to be on the beach.... He was pretty co-operative about climbing off his hunk of coral and onto something more easily thrown. I tossed him (her? how does one tell???) as far back beyond the surf as I could, so I hope the little guy makes out okay. He was really interesting to meet up close and personal.

He didn't need a wardrobe, so much as he needed deeper water, which I suppose IS a type of wardrobe. Certainly it's more than just a fashion accessory.

The storm is over, and the weather is starting to warm up again. It's been quite interesting listening to the locals, and eavesdropping in restaurants. I met a family from Sweden, who thought the ocean quite warm. There were some sailors at lunch who, having only recently worked their way down from Boston, were rethinking returning to the Florida Keys. One retailer, commenting to me on why the stores seem so empty, who concluded that it was too cold, no-one wanted to leave the house. Are they Nuts????

It's been wonderful weather for walking, and I've found every nature trail there is. I've had them all to myself, mind you, but that's fine. it's been a great chance to watch the local birds --

including another osprey, this one sitting in the shallows, where he had just snaggled a crab for his dinner. He let me get some shots of him up in the tree, cracking the crab open, but I like this one, because we don't usually see them sitting in the water like this.
At least, I thought I was all alone on the trails, until I rounded the corner at Fort DeSoto and found this chap. What on earth the Spaniards were thinking, trying to ride into mangrove swamps, remains one of life's great mysteries. To nobody's great surprise, it was a bad idea. Fort DeSoto, for those of you who are in this part of the world, is well worth the visit, a really interesting interpretive site. I learned how to throw a spear, using an atlatl. (go look it up... it might be old, but it's awesome.)
And of course, when you face the western sea, every evening brings sunsets. This one was taken at Coquino Beach, were I was NOT alone on the beach. There was an old salt out there, wearing shorts and a windbreaker, and past his Best Before Date. None of which stopped him from taking a brisk stroll into the wind on the beach at sunset. Now, he's got the right spirit! It was inspirational to share the beach with him.
Not to mention sharing it with the sun slicing down through the clouds.
It is supposed to get warmer tomorrow. There remains an outside chance that I will get a slight tan... but if not, I know I can count on getting a great sunset...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lizards falling from Trees

David did warn me. When the temperature drops enough, the cold blooded lizards, like the adorable little geckos, cool down, and can fall off their perches.
Like we can tell the outside temperature from watching how fast Achmed returns through the cat flap, down here, you can tell by the raining lizards. Time to don another layer.
Which is to say it's dang chilly here. With a severe freeze warning for tonight. And enough wind that an unsuspecting sandpiper on the beach got bowled over in front of me. The seagull hunkered down, despite wind ruffled feathers. The pelicans headed to the Bay side, where the wind was less.
And the only dolphins to be seen were the ones at the Mote Aquarium. A great place in any weather.
Bad weather always looks worse through a window, and walking the beach, watching the huge surf come roaring in, was fabulous. Provided one had no ambitions to lie in the sun, it was a great day. What do the 'locals' do in this weather? Evidently, they head to the malls. I followed suit late in the afternoon, and I have this to say about that... Never have I seen more useless STUFF anywhere. What is with this shopping frenzy for stuff that just takes up space?
We're told, down here in the citrus groves, that on Black Friday, the use of credit cards was down dramatically. Only 17% of sales went on credit. Reasons? Well, some folks are using cash to stay inside a budget. For others, however, it's less voluntary... they just don't have the credit.
I had a visit from an egret yesterday. He came for lunch, and hung about for a long time while I sat outside reading. At one point, I was reading aloud to him. He seemed to like it. Harold, who owns this place, warned me to watch my food... this bird has been known to score a hotdog from the BBQ. So, for those who think living on credit is a dangerous game, they should watch this bird. Stealing hotdogs sounds like a really risky business for an egret...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Birds at the Beach

I'm on Longboat Key, Sarasota. I'm about 100 feet away from where the surf hits the beach.

It's a quiet time of year here -- after Thanksgiving, before Christmas -- and you could pretty much fire the proverbial cannon without hitting anyone.

Which doesn't mean it isn't a happening place. Today, while I wandered along the surf (and no, it isn't really hot -- in the low 70's, with the locals all bundled up) I was kept company by large flights of pelicans. Numerous sandpipers. Surprisingly few seagulls.

The resort next door to mine was hosting a photo shoot for the Bealls Dept. store catalogue. Much activity -- sunscreens, light meters, shades, reflectors, cameras. And, yes, models. They were there all day long. The girls were bundled up in down parkas (really) until the moment came for the shots. I asked, and Dave the photographer said it was fine to take pictures of them taking pictures, so I did...

After lunch, I discovered the most wonderful boardwalk nature trails just moment away at the Joan Durante Park. Restoration work on shorelines and wetlands is just part of this 32 acre `wilderness`, and it`s a great place to wander about. Mullett fish were jumping in the lagoons, and I was graced to watch an osprey swoop down and score one of them.

The osprey later posed for me, on a dead tree. I dunno... for me, the wild birds were more interesting than the ones in swimsuits!

Check out the talons on the osprey -- you wouldn`t want to be on the receiving end of those!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Big Feet, Big Wings

Carol was surprised this week to look out the office window and spot a big flock of wild turkeys sauntering through the driveway. They took their own sweet time, and finally decided to take to the air (you'd be impressed at how well wild turkeys fly. For such big birds, they are amazingly aerodynamic).

They left some lovely patterns in the driveway.

The next morning, I found Achmed, his furry nose glued to the sliding glass doors, watching one of the hens who was foraging in the snow under the birdfeeder on my deck. The cat has dreams of grandeur... never mind dragging home some unsuspecting finch... he is going for the glory! Or so he thinks. Turkeys have wicked beaks and long necks -- best not to mess about with them.

Last spring, on my way to a Council meeting, I found a hen sitting in the middle of the road near Marsh's Falls. She didn't move when I drove past. These are very shy birds, very wary and hard to approach, so that wasn't normal. Being me, I stopped and approached. She had been 'clipped' by a car, and she was still dazed. She let me pick her up.

Which, even as I lifted the bird, (dressed I might add in my best Off to Council clothes!) I realized was a mistake. Quickly grabbing that dangerous beak in one hand, I found myself roadside, holding this injured bird.
Unable to safely release the head and neck, I sort of fumbled about to see where she was hurt. I couldn't put her in the car to take her somewhere for medical aid, because I a) had no hand available to open the car; b) had no way to secure this rather annoyed bird if I did so.
A police cruiser approached -- aha! thought I, help from Ontario's Finest. They serve and protect. But they apparently don't serve until it's time to pass the cranberry sauce. They looked at me, in dress clothes and heels, in the middle of the road holding a wild turkey.They drove on.

I clambered over the guard rail, and found a place to set the bird. She was gone when I returned from the meeting, so I hope she was only stunned. The cars that passed, observing me Dancing with Turkey, probably though I was the stunned one. Oh wel!

Winter Driving, Ain't it a Ditch???

It's always alarming to see a car languishing in the ditch. This belongs to one of our neighbours, who reported that having beaten her way through the worst of the winter storm, when she got to Fox Point Road, she figured she was home, and just relaxed a little too soon.
She wasn't hurt - except for her pride and her driving record. The same can't be said for the vehicle. Or for the five inch diameter cedar tree that snapped off and fell across the roof.
The thing about four wheel drive is that it will help get you OUT of the ditch, but it won't stop you from going IN it. If you drop wheels off into that soft snowbank along the shoulder, the car is going to follow the line of least resistance -- which rarely involves struggling back onto the road. Rural roads are often not as wide as the plows make them appear.
Slow down... drive for the conditions... allow extra room... and remember it isn't over until you're in the driveway. Winter tires are you're best friend. I recall being fished out of a ditch years ago by CAA. Larry laconically looked at my shiny new All Season Tires, shook his head, and informed me, "It isn't ALL seasons, girl... It's f***** WINTER." That was my next purchase and I've never looked back!
I'm writing this from one of the Airport Hotels -- I'm flying south on Thursday for some R&R, during which I'm going to learn how to use this new laptop and leap gleefully into the connected era (or something like that) The drive to the city was an eclectic mix of bright sun, bare roads, then wet roads, then Barrie. Need I say more? The last two days have seen snow streamers pouring in off the Great Lakes, dumping more snow on southern Ontario than we received in Muskoka. If you can just get past Barrie, the drive north is just fine.
But, as ever with winter driving, if you aren't driving with care, life is real Ditch!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

True Colours for Christmas

Driving Peggy home after the Friends of the Library Christmas dinner party in Dwight, I found myself in the midst of an eerily lovely wonderland. The wet snow was bending down the trees over
the road until they almost touched. Mine were the only tracks. It was silent, black and white, and beautiful, with the snow falling steadily.

Peggy lives on Dwight Beach Road. There aren't a lot of homes along that stretch of tarmac, but those there had Christmas lights sparkling through their windows.

This was once the old road into Huntsville. My Grandmother, Elizabeth, returning from Huntsville with the wagon and team of horses, once found herself stuck on this road -- where the snow had drifted deep in a blizzard, and dusk was settling on the land. The horses balked at the depth of the snow, reluctant to struggle forward. There was no way to turn the team around -- even today, on our modern roads, you'd be hard pressed to turn around on that stretch with a car, let alone a team of horses. Staying the night in the blizzard was not an option. Elizabeth climbed off the wagon, and broke trail for the horses through the drifts until they came to this section, where the bending trees held the snow up enough that the team were willing to 'go it alone.'

At the bottom of Buttermilk Hill, the wind off the lake had blown the roadway clear enough for her team, and for my car. And suddenly, out of the black and white snowbound night, there was colour...

The Stewart Memorial Church, over a century old, was glowing with beauty. The lights are on for the Christmas season, illuminating the beautiful glass windows.

This lovely church has a long history. Rev. Alexander Steward heard there were no preachers in this area, and felt the call. Arriving in Dwight, with his life savings of $700, he purchased an old cabin and an acre of land where he would build this church. Staying in the cabin during the first winter, he slept wrapped in an old fur coat, rising in the morning to shake off the snow. The church was dedicated in 1887. Lumber for the building was cut at the Fetterly saw mill at the mouth of the Boyne River. Parishioners sat on boards, since the money didn't stretch to pews or chairs for many years. Rev. A. Stewart's son, Dr. Joseph Stewart, became the church's second minister. In 1915 the bell was added in memory of Mrs. J. W. Stewart.

The windows have changed, as have the ministers, and the Church was joined to the United Church in 1936. It still welcomes the faithful throughout the summer months.

Earlier this year, the Church held a fundraiser to restore the lovely picket fence. Napster provided a piece of original artwork and helped raise money for that project. The new fence, in the darkness, provided an unusual and lovely photo opportunity.

And it still shines as a beacon through the dark nights. Rev. Stewart -- and his minister sons -- would be proud. Several of the original Stewart cottages near the Church are now in proud heritage designation, preserving their unique history, and helping Lake of Bays celebrate its past.
The photo is Dr. Joseph Stewart and Joseph Tapley, at the Church in 1938, when it joined the United Church. Joseph, with his celebrated tenor voice, sang at that service.